When I started doing the podcasts a few months ago, I was strongly advised not to use Zoom. But as the months have gone on, I've belatedly realised that the disadvantages of all the other options probably outweigh the disadvantages of Zoom, so I've given in to the inevitable. And one big side-benefit of using Zoom is that it means I'll sometimes be able to bring you a video version as well. So here, for your delectation and delight, are the full videos of the two podcast interviews I've done over the last few days, with Yvonne Ridley and William Duguid. Yvonne spoke about the Taliban's return to power and her strategic advice for bringing about Scottish independence, while William spoke about the current state of the pro-independence New Media, the SNP-Green deal, the UK government's apparent contingency plans for annexing the Helensburgh area in the event of independence, and the Demographics of Independence report from CommonWeal.
Saturday, September 4, 2021
Thursday, September 2, 2021
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Scot Goes Popcast: A brand new interview with Dr Yvonne Ridley on the Taliban's return to power, and on how mass demonstrations can win independence for Scotland
For Episode 11 of the Scot Goes Popcast, I spoke once again to the journalist and anti-war activist Dr Yvonne Ridley, who was the guest on the very first Popcast at the start of the year. Back then I had asked her about her experiences as a prisoner of the Taliban in 2001, but it hadn't occurred to me that the Taliban were just six months away from resuming total control of Afghanistan. For the first half of today's interview, Yvonne gives her take on Afghanistan's uncertain future under its new-but-familiar masters. She also has some forthright views on the way forward for the Scottish independence movement, which she shares in the second half of the interview. Here are some of the key points...
* She thinks the Taliban have matured since they were last in power, and that consequently there's unlikely to be a repeat of the worst excesses, such as the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan.
* She explains that Afghanistan under western occupation was not the land of milk and honey for women that it was sometimes portrayed as, and that there's a "low bar" for women's rights in the country.
* She puts the case for women to stay in Afghanistan.
* She thinks America's retreat from the conflict marks the end of western liberal interventionism to spread "freedom" and "democracy" at the point of a gun.
* She think marchers for Scottish independence should not just go back home at the end of the day and wait for the next march - they should stay where they are until the Scottish Government take action to bring independence about.
* She is not, to put it mildly, the greatest fan of the new Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights, namely Patrick Harvie MSP.
Sunday, August 29, 2021
As I mentioned in the last blogpost but one, I agreed to Paul Kavanagh's request a few weeks ago that I shouldn't post a public rebuttal of the serious allegations that 'Scottish Skier' had been making about me in the comments section of Wee Ginger Dug. This was on the understanding that the allegations would be deleted. However, Scottish Skier has reposted his claims yet again today, and they've now been up for over ten hours. I've no idea if the WGD moderators will delete the comment eventually, but it's got to the point where that's almost an irrelevance, because if Scottish Skier keeps writing these posts and they're deleted several hours or days later, it's effectively shutting the stable door after the horse has already bolted. I can't allow these persistent attempts to tarnish my reputation go unanswered forever.
Here, then, is the rebuttal I intended to post a few weeks ago. Essentially what this is all about is the controversy over the £600,000 that was donated to the SNP's "ring-fenced" indyref fund, and that appears to have been spent on other things. Back in the spring, when he was still a regular commenter on this blog, Scottish Skier made his customary metaphysical attempt to prove black is white by insisting that the fund had indeed been ring-fenced, even though most of the money is no longer there. His argument rested mainly on the claim that the SNP must be still "good for the money" because they had given a refund to those who had requested one. This was of course a nonsense, because only a tiny percentage of donors had asked for a refund, and thus only a small proportion of the funds needed to be available to pay those people back. If everyone had asked for a refund, the SNP wouldn't have been able to agree, because the £600,000 simply wasn't there.
Scottish Skier bristled when I and others pointed this out to him - and then he seemed to have a brainwave. He remembered that he had previously donated small amounts to Scot Goes Pop fundraisers, so as a little stunt he decided to demand a partial refund on one particular £20 donation which he made several months earlier. (The 'partial' cracked me up.) What he was attempting to demonstrate was that the SNP were superior to independent Yes fundraisers like myself, because they were prepared to offer refunds on demand. Alternatively, I could play along with the stunt and agree to the refund, in which case I'd effectively be conceding that fundraising simply isn't viable anymore, because I wouldn't actually be able to spend any of the money I raise. I would have to retain the money indefinitely just in case someone like Skier vexatiously demands a refund months or years later - which would defeat the entire purpose. Remember that he wasn't asking for a refund of money that was supposed to be ring-fenced, but instead for money that I had already spent in exactly the way I had promised to - either on opinion polls or on general living expenses. Apparently to atone for the SNP's sin of spending money in a way they said they wouldn't, every other Yesser raising funds now has to refrain from spending money in the way they said they would. As I pointed out to Skier, there have been individual donations in the past of as much as £500 or £1000, and I simply cannot be expected to find that sort of money at the drop of a hat. If you want to know whether I'd hypothetically be able to pay back the £6000 I raised in 2015, the answer is 'no', and nobody should expect it to be anything else. I promised to use the money, and I used it. If I'd promised to sit on it, that would be a different story.
I want to emphasise at this point that I'm more than happy to refund donations when the request is made within a reasonable timescale and when the reason is valid. For example, I once refunded £90 to someone who was horrified to discover that she had donated £100 rather than the £10 she intended. (Ironically the refund more or less wiped out the £10 donation once the transaction fees on the original £100 were taken into account.) But if, as a tiresome stunt, someone randomly demands a refund of money that has long since been spent, and spent entirely properly, that's a very different matter.
In his comment on Wee Ginger Dug today, Scottish Skier attached the emails he sent me when he was demanding the refund. With characteristic cynicism, he claimed that he had omitted all of my replies to 'protect' me! The real reason of course was to strip his emails out of their proper context, in which they would have been seen in a very different light. To redress the balance, here are my own emails from that exchange. The most comical bit is when he "takes me up on my offer" to donate £15 to a Highland rescue dog charity as a goodwill gesture, but then announces that he's unilaterally changed that offer to include a £5 donation to the Scottish Green Party!
The only edits I've made are to replace his real first name with the word "Skier", so that he can't complain that I've compromised his privacy.
On Fri, 2 Jul 2021 at 18:33, James Kelly wrote:
Great to hear from you. As you know, this is the first email I've received from you on the subject of a refund request, so you'll understand my puzzlement at your suggestion that you "haven't had a response" or that you're somehow "following up". However, that's not terribly important given that you've now contacted me on the subject.
I'm happy to consider a refund if you can provide me with a valid reason for requesting one. The reasons you've provided so far all appear to be invalid or inaccurate. I'll go through them one by one for the avoidance of doubt...
* You claim that at the time of your donation, the site was pro-independence and discussed polling. That's quite true, but it's still pro-independence and still discusses polling. So no reason there.
* You claim that at the time of your donation the site was not in favour of any one party and did not attack any Yes parties. This is untrue: the site until recently has been pro-SNP in line with my own membership of that party. It frequently criticised pro-independence parties such as the Greens and RISE, and even the SNP itself on specific issues where I felt they were getting it wrong. So no reason there.
* You claim that since your donation, the site has become pro-Alba and has attacked the SNP and Greens. This is irrelevant to your donation because I made no undertaking in the fundraiser to refrain from partisan commentary. So no reason there.
* You say this is not what you donated in expectation of. That's irrelevant, because I can only be responsible for what I actually committed myself to in the fundraiser, not for erroneous or imaginative "expectations" on the part of others.
* You say you have been "blocked". This is untrue: pre-moderation has been switched on due to relentless trolling, and your comments are simply subject to the same moderation policy as everyone else's. It's an irrelevant point anyway, because I made no undertaking in the fundraiser that donors could expect to comment with impunity - or even to comment at all.
* You say that I can see why you "wonder what the hell is going on with the site". No, frankly I have no idea what you're talking about.
You'll appreciate, therefore, that I cannot offer you a refund on the basis you requested it - however if you have a valid reason I'll be more than happy to listen. Alternatively, I would be willing to make a £15 donation to a Highland rescue dog charity as a gesture of goodwill. I would ask you to match the donation, and naturally I would require an undertaking from you that you would then accept the matter is closed. Let me know your preference.
On Fri, 2 Jul 2021 at 19:47, James Kelly wrote:
Fairness is extremely important to me too. That's why in the past I have made a refund of as much as £90 when the request has been made for genuine reasons. That's also why it's important to say no to vexatious requests made for bogus reasons several months after the donation. As you have not accepted my offer to make a goodwill donation to a Highland dog rescue charity, and as you have ignored my invitation to provide a valid reason for your refund request, it appears that we both now regard this matter as closed. If anything changes, ie. if you think of a reason or decide you would like me to make the charity donation, please don't hesitate to let me know.
Have a great evening.
On Fri, 2 Jul 2021 at 20:54, James Kelly wrote:
I agree with you about one thing - this is incredibly silly, and frankly petty on your part. You are making a huge issue about £15, and yes, you're doing so due to personal animosity - your animosity towards me. You don't give a monkey's about the money itself, which as you know perfectly well was used for *exactly* the purpose specified and intended.
You are not my customer. You did not pay for a service. You donated to a crowdfunder, and the money was used *precisely* as promised.
I will not be providing you with a refund unless you give me a valid reason for requesting one. I invite you to either do so now, or to draw a line under this nonsense.
Incidentally, it's utterly risible to suggest that the time elapsed since the donation is irrelevant. I received a £1000 donation a few years ago, which I've long since spent - are you suggesting I would be obliged to immediately come up with that money and return it if the donor in question suddenly decided on a whim to request a refund? Er, no.
Enjoy the rest of your evening.
On Fri, 2 Jul 2021 at 21:12, James Kelly wrote:
I am not "keeping your money". You donated a small amount of money to a crowdfunder a long time ago and I spent it in exactly the manner promised. It is therefore no longer your money - indeed, it is no longer my money either.
Please note this rather ridiculous matter is now closed.
On Fri, 2 Jul 2021 at 21:28, James Kelly wrote:
As explained, this matter is now closed. I will not be refunding you because you have not provided a valid reason. Good luck with your bogus "claim", and good luck also to the next person with a blog you decide is your own personal property.
On Fri, 2 Jul 2021 at 22:39, James Kelly wrote:
By all means give me an immediate refund if you feel that strongly about it. But as you are demanding a refund from me, not the other way around, it's my reaction that matters.
On Sun, 4 Jul 2021 at 14:21, James Kelly